Universal Basic Income in the United States and Advanced Countries
Posted: 4 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 2019
We discuss the potential role of universal basic incomes (UBIs) in advanced countries. A feature of advanced economies that distinguishes them from developing countries is the existence of well-developed, if often incomplete, safety nets. We develop a framework for describing transfer programs that is flexible enough to encompass most existing programs as well as UBIs, and we use this framework to compare various UBIs to the existing constellation of programs in the United States. A UBI would direct much larger shares of transfers to childless, nonelderly, nondisabled households than existing programs, and much more to middle-income rather than poor households. A UBI large enough to increase transfers to low-income families would be enormously expensive. We review the labor supply literature for evidence on the likely impacts of a UBI. We argue that the ongoing UBI pilot studies will do little to resolve the major outstanding questions.
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